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Commentary: Rope Tow Terror

By Jim Nolan


Buffalo, NY – Over the centuries, the world has seen many truly horrible instruments of torture.

The rack.

The iron maiden.

Celine Dion.

But none of them none of them compare to a diabolical device I encountered again, skiing. It's called the rope tow.

I thought it had been outlawed years ago by the Red Cross. The rope tow, for those of you fortunate enough not to have come across it, is simply a rope that tows beginning skiers up the Bunny Slope. When you grab onto this fast-moving rope, it either slips through your hands until your gloves start to smoke, or you somehow clamp onto it and get your arms jerked out of their sockets. Glenwood Acres, where I learned to ski, had a rope tow, and I remember hanging on to it for dear life as it dragged me up the hill after I'd fallen, terrifying me but providing my brothers a hearty laugh.

My youngest son George seemed to have less trouble with the rope tow than I did. Still, he hasn't looked at me in the same trusting way since. Because the rope tow is one of the first undeniable indications kids have that adults are perhaps well meaning, but insane. Eventually, you master the Bunny Slope. Thank goodness. Because now it's time to finally get off that dangerous rope tow and onto the even more dangerous T-Bar. The T-Bar has everything going for it the rope tow has, but with the added benefit of a 150-pound metal bar about to hit you upside the head. Helmets are very popular at resorts with T-Bars.

But I've recently noticed a new development on the slopes that is scarier than the rope tow and T-Bar combined. And that is my children. George likes to ski in between the metal poles that anchor the snow making equipment. I've become one of those fathers you see 50 yards behind their children, screaming as inconspicuously as possible "slow down!" Oddly, they never seem to hear me.

My parents put up with a lot to teach us kids skiing. Rope tows, T-Bars, lacing up leather ski boots in sub-zero temperatures, wrestling bear trap bindings, watching us streak down the Glenwood Acres bowl barely in control. They've told me they're happy that the sport is being passed on to another generation. Now I know why. It's called...revenge.

Listener-Commentator Jim Nolan is a New York City advertising executive who grew up in Snyder.

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